The trouble with clichés is that they usually are true. When someone says the Southwest Conference will run true to form this year, that is true; it always is. When he adds that true form means no team in the region can be relied on to win consistently, that is true, too; it always is. In short, he ain't just awhistling Dixie.
He ain't, that is, unless he is Darrell Royal (above, triumphant), football coach at Texas and a firm prophet of the unsettling ways of SWC football. Royal, whose team is no cliché, delights in laying down smoke screens. Nevertheless, Texas will dominate the Southwest Conference again this year as it did last year; it probably will be upset once, as it was last year (by TCU 6-0 in a game that cost Texas the national championship); it will continue to dominate the Southwest Conference in the years to come. Darrell Royal knows this but he won't admit it. If he admitted it, his players might grow smug and fat and lazy and begin to lose games right and left and the Southwest Conference would then become truly unpredictable.
Not that Darrell Royal quarrels with those who pick Texas to win the SWC title again. "We're the most wanted on everybody's schedule," he says. "Whether we're picked to win or not isn't going to change that, so it really doesn't matter. I hope it will continue to make news when we lose a game rather than when we win one. But I'll tell you this. I have tried to sit down and think this thing through and pick 'em, but I can't. I was surprised by every game we played last year—including the one with TCU. The only game we played about like I expected was against Texas A&M [coming off the TCU upset, Texas won 25-0]. I had no idea we were going to win by the scores we did [33-7 over Arkansas, 34-7 over Rice, 33-7 over Baylor, 42-14 over Texas Tech, 27-0 over SMU]. I went into some of those games scared to death.
"We're an upset conference. Practically all our boys—except those from Arkansas—come from Texas. They know each other. There's no such thing as being intimidated by your opponent in this conference. And there is no such thing as having a home crowd to help you. Most of our games are played before Texans, half of them for the other Texas team."
Royal anticipates no startling innovations in 1962 like the "flip-flop" offense he introduced in 1961 and is continuing this year. (In the flip-flop, the same guard, tackle and end line up on the right side for wing right and on the left side for wing left, a device that is being copied widely because it simplifies blocking assignments.)
"Football runs in cycles," Royal says. "Jim Tatum, Bud Wilkinson and Don Faurot all had the split T and were very successful, so everyone wanted to put in the split T. I got a big break from that because they all wanted someone who had been associated with it, preferably under one of those three, and I had played for Wilkinson at Oklahoma. Then the split T was followed by the belly series, and then Iowa and others had a lot of success with the wing T, so everyone started using that. For the past couple of years everybody's been using it with the sprint-out pass and the pitch-back sweep—which is just a plain old country sweep like off the single wing, except you have a pitch-back instead of a direct snap." (Jess Neely of Rice agrees, except that he calls it a trend toward the single wing, disguised as the wing T.) Royal concludes, almost with a shudder: "Even winning and losing runs in cycles. You could never have convinced anyone a few years ago that Notre Dame or Oklahoma would ever have a losing season. It happens to the best of them and I'm not foolish enough to think it can't happen here."
Arkansas' Frank Broyles is a coach of the same new-breed stamp as Royal, which is to say he is young, smart, pleasant and aggressive, has been hugely successful in a short time and is widely popular with partisans of Arkansas football. His team poses the greatest challenge to Royal and Texas, both for this year (because it is a well-balanced squad with excellent defense) and the future (because of Broyles and the fact that he has the whole state of Arkansas to himself, so to speak, for recruiting). But this year Royal also has to deal with Sonny Gibbs, TCU's 6-foot 7-inch quarterback, who is, as they say in Texas, the biggest quarterback in the whole wide world. Gibbs used to be spectacular and erratic but now he appears to be merely spectacular, and TCU Coach Abe Martin says, "Our prospects are real good for a real fine team."
There are other coaches—with fine teams and real good prospects—in the SWC. One with a chance to threaten Texas this year is Texas A&M, coached for the first time by Hank Foldberg, the old Army end. The Aggies have a team "that just hasn't quite jelled yet," which probably means it isn't terribly good but that Foldberg will get a good going-over from the alumni is he doesn't win a mess of games.
Though the SWC dominates the Southwest, good, fast football is played throughout the area. West Texas State, for example, has Pistol Pete Pedro, a 5-foot 7-inch, 160-pound back from Lynn, Mass., who scored 22 touchdowns last season. And, of course, Arizona, Arizona State and New Mexico, charter members of the new Western Athletic Conference, are major football forces who are reorienting themselves away from Texas and the old Border Conference geography. Still, the leaders this year are mostly from the SWC. The first five: 1) Texas, 2) Arkansas, 3) TCU, 4) Texas A&M, 5) Arizona.
Les Wheeler, recently promoted from line to head coach, takes over a fine group of players that includes six starters from 1961, 17 other returning lettermen and hard-to-come-by transfers: Tackle Larry Curtis from Pepperdine, 6-foot-5 End Dewitt Jones from Tulsa and Wingback Owen Morrison from TCU. However, only Curtis is able to crack a first-team line that is not large but has excellent getaway speed and fits in nicely with the wing T offense and the running game Wheeler intends to play. Tailback Thayne McKnight, the best of a bright group of backs, last season showed his will-o'-the-wisp speed and change of pace by shaking loose for runs of 63 and 91 yards. As fleet as McKnight might be, he still runs second to Wingback Bubba Brown (9.8 for the hundred) who is also a blink faster than Quarterback Charley McCook. McCook, a fair hand at passing, has good and experienced Ends Gary Cohn and A.M. Dycus to receive.
CONCLUSION: Patient Abilene Christian, looking forward to a rise in fortunes, has only one worry—the defense is soft.
Football, the last few years, has brought Arizona out of the shadows of the Southwest Conference and into the bright lights of national prominence. While 1961 was the best year in the 62-year-old football history of the university, it was only a beginning. This season Arizona becomes a charter member of the more muscular Western Athletic Conference and Coach Jim La Rue hopes to start off big real big. He has a fast and experienced line that has grown stronger with the addition of sophomore starting Guard John Briscoe who should meld smoothly with Co-captain Howie Breinig, a small-size guard of deadly effectiveness, and brilliant two-way Tackle Gerald Zeman. Exceptional speed is the key to Arizona's T and split T offense. Last year's backfield graduated, but there are replacements in abundance. Passing is another story. Dave Long did not return for fall practice. Quarterback Bill Brechler must learn fast.
CONCLUSION: If it gets the passing, Arizona's chances for a big year are as bright as LaRue's fondest expectations.
The Sun Devils, sad to say, are bedeviled up front. From tackle to tackle, all of last year's starters are gone, and the second rank moving into position doesn't measure up defensively. Even so, Coach Frank Kush, with three platoons of strong, fast backs to operate his single and double wing T formations, has great expectations. Right Halfback Charlie Taylor moves his 200-pound frame at a 9.7 clip for the hundred and Left Halfback Tony Lorick is only a stride slower. These players, quick to catch passes, help to form the tautest deep defense in the Southwest. Yet, neither man is secure in his job. Sophomores Henry Carr, who may make the Olympics as a sprinter, and Larry Todd, another dash man who has the arm to exercise the pass option, may force them aside. At fullback there is the same comforting depth, but State may have trouble at quarterback, where big John Jacobs has sometimes proved brittle.
CONCLUSION: It is doubtful that Kush's offense will offset defensive shortcomings. But look for interesting, high-scoring games.
If Arkansas wins (or ties) one more Southwestern championship the conference commissioners ought to start antitrust proceedings. Opponents can take heart that the Razorbacks have lost six hard-to-come-by starters from last year's Sugar Bowl team. But this may be brief comfort. Coach Frank Broyles has solved similar problems in the past by shifting players and shuffling his wing T. This year he will switch from a basic halfback-quarterback offense to a quarterback-fullback attack, with dangerous runner and daring play-caller Billy Moore instructed to exercise the quarterback's run option frequently. When Moore isn't carrying the ball, he will hand off to powerful Fullback Billy Joe Moody or Jesse Branch and Jim Worthington, his two strong standbys. A dearth of fast, proven halfbacks, favored targets during the past three years, may limit the passing game. Defense comes first with Broyles, however. It will be as determined as ever.
CONCLUSION: With an easier schedule, another halfback and more defense could bring Arkansas its record fourth straight title.
Only oldtimers can remember the last time the Bears won the championship. Baylor won't win this year, but partisans can console themselves with the most imaginative and exciting football in the conference. Under Coach John Bridgers and his pro-styled T, the breakaway run and long pass have become a part of every game. Once again there is a strong-arm quarterback, Don Trull, to throw to the agile, speedy receivers, Halfbacks Bob Norvell and Ron Goodwin, who is even more dangerous with a direct handoff. With quicker tacklers in Jim Moore and Art Delgado and an honest-to-goodness power runner in 205-pound Fullback Dalton Hoffman, the running, especially the wide plays, will go farther. It is the defense that will hurt Baylor's chances. When defending, the tackles will swap positions with the guards to give the team more mobility. This is a makeshift device, though, and no real solution to the defensive shortcomings.
CONCLUSION: Bridgers and Baylor still face building seasons. Meanwhile, the Bears are going to spoil somebody's Saturday.
Taking tickets at a Hardin-Simmons game is a mighty quiet job. With a streak of 22 straight losses, even giveaways go un-punched. To end the losses and stimulate the gate, the Cowboys have turned to an old remedy a new coach. In fact, they have tried the cure three times during the past four years and they're still not well. The new man, Coach Jack Thomas, could not have had a bleaker welcome. At the end of spring practice, only 18 men remained on the squad. Thomas has been busy since trying to hard-sell freshmen and junior college transfers. Outside of two good-receiving ends, Ken McMinn and Claude Dollins, and a strong-running fullback, Art Kuntzman, Thomas hardly is in a position to make out a lineup. Among other things, he hasn't got a quarterback. Figuring that this can only help the opposition, he has junked the pro-type T and installed variants of the T that will be better suited to a running game.
CONCLUSION: Closer games would be an improvement, but more than that—maybe even a win—won't come easily.
Bill Yeoman, who after eight years as a Big Ten assistant now begins his first season as a head coach, already has made one sobering discovery. They play the same game in Texas and East Lansing, but at Houston the big boys are smaller, ruling out the mid-western ball-control tactics Yeoman knows best. This does not mean that Houston won't score. If anything, its play will be more venturesome than last year's. How much so depends on the durability of small but quick Quarterback Bill Roland, who runs and throws well on roll-outs, and Fullback Bob Brezina, the most consistent ballcarrier on the squad. The return of last year's two best receivers, Halfback Bill McMillan and End Clem Beard, should help Roland considerably. The line, unfortunately, is thin both in size and in replacements. By midseason, after consecutive poundings by Baylor, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Alabama, it could be the most bandaged line in football.
CONCLUSION: Had the schedule been reversed, Houston might have won some of its earlier games against easier opponents.
The speed and size of McMurry's backfield excites the envy of the school's larger Texas neighbors. All three running backs, Fullback Fred Austin and Halfbacks Jim Densman and Don Davis, are 200-pounders who move their sizable bulk with a small man's nimbleness. Quarterback Lee King can pass with commendable accuracy. This all adds up to a smooth-working straight T offense, which is only slightly impeded by the absence of good-receiving ends. However, Ends Fred Thompson and Bill Bailey make amends for their limited pass-catching abilities by blocking and tackling extremely well. The line, though outmatched in ability by the big backs, is still substantial and capable. Tackles Ernie Park (225 pounds) and Doug James (215 pounds) have a rough and disconcerting habit of harassing passers. Their tactics, combined with better than average coverage in the secondary, give McMurry a practically perfect pass defense.
CONCLUSION: If injuries don't spoil their fun, Coach Grant Teaff and his Indians may be headed for their finest season in years.
It is a bright, shiny new tomorrow for the Lobos of Albuquerque. Coach Bill Weeks has a few wrinkles to iron out at guard and fullback, but sophomore Guard Glen Trouble-field and Fullback Phil Pouncil (the very names sound aggressive) or transfer Back Joe Harris should make his job less pressing. In the line experienced big men, like Center Chuck Clausen (232 pounds) and Tackle John Stewart (232), counterbalance the quickness of Tackle John Kosor (205) and Guard Bob Bouyer (204), who pulls out to block for Halfback Bob Santiago. A scat-back, Santiago led the team in rushing last year (535 yards) and receiving. Quarterback Jim Cromartie runs the wing T roll-outs and bootleg well, but he may have to step aside for Minnesota transfer Steve Malnar, a long-passing 205-pounder. Left Halfback Jim Ottmann is another whose job is jeopardized by a horde of impressive transfers and new prospects from the freshman team.
CONCLUSION: There's a wealth of offensive and defensive material here, but so is there at Wyoming, Utah and Arizona.
New Mexico State
If it is hard to say too much about the Aggies' offense, which was the second best in the country last year (averaging 401 yards and 34.1 points a game), it is impossible to say anything for the defense, which was generous to a fault. Coach Warren Woodson decided to change his ways and install two platoons this season. The change may also have been dictated by his losses—23 lettermen, including nine starters. All Woodson has left is Tailback Jim Pilot and End Dick Ramirez. But Pilot alone is enough for an offense. He led the nation in rushing and scoring in 1961 with 1,278 yards and 138 points. Woodson hopes to flesh out the rest of his starting unit with last year's reserves and such junior college transfers as the 250-pount Tackles Owen Thomas and Mal Weaver, Fullback John Allen and Quarterback Jim Head. Woodson has 235-pound Guards Fred Burton and Bob Boyd along with a real pass catcher, Halfback Dave Thompson.
CONCLUSION: Again the Aggies are blessed with an offensive abundance, but they badly need recruits to man the defense.
N. Texas State
Bigness is at once a virtue and a curse for North Texas State. Gusset-busting linemen averaging 232 pounds can clear plenty of room for the runners, but the backs are big, too—and slow. Even so, the Eagles will be primarily a running team, for they haven't got much in the way of passing. Last season only 31 tosses were completed, and this year's quarterback, Merle Boyd, is a barely adequate passer. Slow Ends Mike Pirkle (224 pounds)and Win Freeman (234 pounds) won't help Boyd much, since they seldom reach the ball. The lack of speed hurts in another way, too. Halfback Bob Smith, the lone breakaway threat, most times is too fast for his ponderous interference. Quicker ends or another fast halfback would give Boyd an opportunity to improve his pass completions and Smith a chance to better his 4.5-yard rushing average. Coach Odus Mitchell's defensive line is fierce on ball-carriers, but he has no one to stop passes.
CONCLUSION: Opponents' passes and the lack of a passing game of its own doom State to at best a break-even season.
In 1961 Rice had a curious penchant for playing "big." The Owls either won by sizable scores, or lost the same way. Not that they did badly overall—a 7-4 season is handsome enough—but they had been co-favorites to win the SWC. Coach Jess Neely has lost the major part of last year's team—17 lettermen and six starters. Yet so abundant are the prize sophomores at hand that Rice should have better depth this year for the hard games ahead. Without a speed boy, Neely's T formation will be balanced between the long passing of Quarterback Bill Cox and the powerful rushing of sophomore Fullback Russ Wayt. The line has a nice solid look, too. End Gene Raesz, the team's most capable receiver, and 236-pound Guard Mike Fritsch are the best performers and seldom miss blocks or tackles. Only at tackle will Rice have trouble. John Mims, 246 pounds, is the lone returning letterman. The rest are red-shirts and sophomores.
CONCLUSION: Rice can shape up early against non-conference foes. If it shapes up well, Texas et al. may be in danger.
The Mustangs couldn't get Frank Broyles to coach them, so they did the next best thing: they took Broyles's assistant, Hayden Fry. Fry has the Arkansas touch. Since arriving on campus, he has imbued the school and the squad with a winning attitude and, more important, made sweeping changes in the players' physiques and positions. He melted an average seven pounds off of each man and shifted 17 of the first 33 players. Defense and running were given precedent over the other skills. For this reason Quarterback Jerry Rhome, after an impressive sophomore year, lost his position and left school. Don Campbell, a lightweight passer but a sound runner and defensive man, takes over. Max Derden, a red-shirted quarterback in 1961, becomes the regular fullback. Impressed by sophomore John Knee, Fry matched him at tackle with Ray Schoenke (whom he shifted from guard), and made the interior line the team's most promising area.
CONCLUSION: After an impressive start, Fry has a long way to go. One year is hardly enough time to make a winner.
"Texas," Southwesterners have been complaining the last few years, "gets all the players." They were right, too, in 1960 and 61, when Jimmy Saxton, Mike Cotten and Jack Collins were running wild. They will be no less correct this year, even though graduation has removed the three along with a few choice linemen. For Coach Darrell Royal has a new group ready. Jerry Cook (6 feet 3) who, as an alternate last season, tied as the team's high scorer (56 points), takes over at tailback for Saxton. John Genung moves in at quarterback. In 1961 he had better than a 5.0 rushing average to go along with two touchdown passes in limited play. At fullback there is 6-foot-4 Ray Poage, who, if he stays healthy, could easily be the best in the country. Wingback will be either 208-pound Ernie Koy or 194-pound Joe Dixon, sophomores and both elusive runners and fine receivers. Tackle Scott Appleton, a possible All-America, is the core of a strong defense.
CONCLUSION: Not as explosive as last year, the Texans have an old-fashioned powerhouse that could run over the Southwest.
Since 1958 football has been a painful experience for Aggie students. Not only have they stood through all home games—an old tradition—they have stood through one lackluster losing season after another. Now new Coach Hank Foldberg promises to free them from at least the losing side of their travail. He could even bring A&M the conference championship in his first year, just as he did with Wichita. More likely, he will have to settle for less. With the quarterbacking in question—John Erickson and Jim Keller are the best prospects but sophomore Jim Willenborg has better ability-the T offense can't be opened up more than a notch. The Aggies have three excellent fullbacks—Sam Byer (220 pounds), LeeRoy Caffey (220) and Jerry Rogers (210)—running behind an exceptional blocking center, 215-pound Jerry Hopkins. The guards and linebackers are very strong; they will have to be to make up for weaknesses at tackle.
CONCLUSION: A&M will have a winning season. It may even have more than that if Texas or TCU should suffer critical injuries.
Even though he has the biggest and perhaps the best quarterback in the country, 6-foot-7, 230-pound Sonny Gibbs, Coach Abe Martin says, "I intend to emphasize the running game." His reasons are three: Gibbs himself, Center Ken Henson and Fullback Tom Crutcher. The trio gives TCU so much up-the-middle strength a man would be a fool to ignore it. Gibbs not only throws well, he is a capable runner and a booming blocker. Crutcher, the second leading rusher in the SWC last fall, is an excellent blocker, too. Sophomore Henson, 250 pounds, could be the best center in the league. Martin has another reason for not passing: a dearth of experienced ends. The only certain catcher is Halfback Don Smith. As always, the Horned Frogs have those good, big linemen so necessary for a sound rushing defense. For a change, though, the tackles are not All-Americas, and this could hurt, since the defensive backfield is not quick.
CONCLUSION: TCU is a conference favorite. If it doesn't take the title, TCU will play merry hob with the other contenders.
When Tech joined the South west Conference in 1960, Coach J. T. King said, "We should reach the competitive level in 1963 or '64." Still a year away, Tech is showing signs of catching up with the forecast. Three lines, each probably equal to last year's starting unit, provide the team with a sound backbone for its back-bending early schedule. Save for a few exceptions in the backfield, none of the Raiders is particularly big, however. Regular Right Halfback Bill Worley, listed at a generous 160 pounds, is the squad's most effective all-round back. End Larry Jones is another good 160-pounder. At 190, Left End Dave Parks is, possibly, the finest receiver in the Southwest. Of the big backs, the best are Quarterback John Lovelace (6 feet 5 inches, 215 pounds), who gained 282 yards rushing and passed for 359 more in 1961, and Fullback Coolidge Hunt, a 205-pound workhorse who gained 486 yards.
CONCLUSION: Good sophomores, who will infiltrate the starting team by midseason, should give the Raiders a strong finish.
TWC has gone to great pains to improve its football standing. The Miners have brought in a new coach, O. A. Phillips, increased the staff from three to six assistants and are building a new stadium. There has been only one oversight—players. Those TWC does have are on the small side and slow. Julius Glosson, a sorely needed fast back, and George Tiffany, an excellent linebacker, could have helped out, but, alas, they a re ineligible. This then leaves only three certain players: 235-pound Tackle Luis Hernandez, all-conference End Ralph Kennedy and Fullback Don Boyce, the team's most effective runner (611 yards rushing in 1961). Phillips won't decide on his other starters until the day of the first game. Transfer Val Tenorio or Pat O'Donnell, both quarterbacks, will split the throwing in the pass-oriented split wing T attack. TWC uses freshmen, and Phillips can't wait to see what goodies matriculation will bring.
CONCLUSION: Beginnings are always difficult, but this one, Phillips will find, will be just plain painful.
Blink twice. Trinity has a new coach, but it is going to be hard to tell the difference with-out a program. William (Dub) McElhannon, Tulane '43, who worked with the Tigers as an assistant for four years, replaces W.A. McElreath. McElhannon (he's the new one) knows what he's up against. Even with 18 returning lettermen, the backfield is as open as the plains of Texas. Coach McElhannon I is relying on speedy sophomore Halfback Obert Logan, and a not her sophomore, scrappy Bill Lambert. As yet no suitably ferocious Tigers have stepped into the tackle spots, nor has the team's notoriously poor groundwork been significantly improved. But the Trinity passing attack, handled by highly dependable left-hander Jay McCarty (last year I he threw for 750 yards), is strong. Receiver Troy Shirley proved himself in 1961, too. And just in case McCarty's left arm should go lame, the Tigers have another southpaw passer, Jim Whitten.
CONCLUSION: With big-gun Texas A&M off the schedule, the mild-mannered Tigers should hold their own in the BB-gun class.
W. Texas State
Pete Pedro not only sounds like the last of the Texas badmen. Last year, to at least half a dozen Border Conference teams, he was—despite his Lynn, Mass. origins. As a 160-pound sophomore, he scored 22 touchdowns (just two short of the collegiate record), averaged 7.1 yards a carry and led Coach Joe Kerbel's Buffaloes to a second-place finish in the conference. Pedro wasn't the whole offense, though. Fullback Ollie Ross, all 215 pounds of him, and Halfback Jerry Logan came close to matching Pedro's running effectiveness. Quarterback Jim Dawson was effective, too, astutely mixing the split T plays and completing 50% of his passes—seven of them for touchdowns. All in the backfield are back but if they do as well this year they can thank their own artfulness, not the line. There are a lot of bodies and little experience up front. All-conference Guard Stu Johnson is the experienced man, and he can't defend alone.
CONCLUSION: In a season of high scores, the Arizona State game should be a dilly. Neither team will stop the other.
SOPHOMORE TO WATCH
Wingback Ernie Koy of Texas University
Son of the former major league outfielder (Dodgers, Cardinals, Reds), Ernie Koy Jr. is a 6-foot 2-inch, 208-pound classic combination of size, speed and sheer ability. He was named the outstanding player in Texas high school football in 1960 and had over 40 scholarship offers. Since Ernie Sr. was once a star fullback at Texas (1930-31-32), there wasn't much question about where the boy would end up. A fullback in high school, Koy was switched to wingback as a Texas freshman and led the squad (four wins, one loss) in ground-gaining (277 yards in 60 carries) and scoring (30 points, including four touchdowns). He also returned five punts for 67 yards, completed four passes in five attempts for 50 yards, and averaged 38.1 yards for 28 punts. He is right now the best punter Texas has had in five years.